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Historiography of the Apparition of Guadalupe

Daniel J. Castellano (2012)

Part X

Indigenous Texts of Uncertain Date
Pictographic Codices and Maps

Indigenous Texts of Uncertain Date

The earliest accounts of the Guadalupe apparitions are to be found in the Indian traditions, yet these sources are problematic from the perspective of Western historical scholarship. The Indians recorded their histories by oral tradition, through ceremonial dance, and with pictographic maps and annals that served more as mnemonic aids than as detailed narratives. The preservation of local history was a sacred trust, and we have little reason to doubt its basic veracity. Nonetheless, the use of such methods makes it practically impossible for us to fix definite dates on most documents, and in many cases we can no longer determine their meaning unambiguously. Here we will discuss the most notable of such documents, and perhaps obtain some fragmentary insights into the early Guadalupan tradition.

Inin hueitlamahuizoltzin or Relación Primitiva
Teponazcuicatl or Pregón del Atabal
Annals of Tlatelolco and Mexico
Annals of Mexico and Its Surroundings, 1546-1625
Annals of Puebla and Tlaxcala
Añalejo de Bartolache, 1454-1737
Codex Gómez de Orozco
Synthesis of the Annals

Inin hueitlamahuizoltzin or Relación Primitiva

The most noteworthy of these documents, though written in Nahuatl, shows signs of having been composed by a Spaniard well versed in that language. This brief narrative on three folios (numbered 51-53) is sometimes called the Inin huei tlamahuizoltzin, after its opening words, or more commonly the Relación Primitiva (Primitive Account), on the assumption that this is an earlier, less embellished form of the Guadalupe narrative.

The document was kept in the Jesuit Colegio de San Pedro y San Pablo, which was later the Colegio de San Gregorio and finally the Museo Nacional, where it was discovered by the renowned scholar José Fernando Ramírez in 1856. Ramírez accordingly suggested that the narrative was written or edited by a Jesuit, and he considered the handwriting style to be consistent with the late sixteenth or early seventeenth century. The original is still preserved in the National Library of Mexico.

Although the narrative was likely written down by a Jesuit, the content shows indigenous modes of thought and expression, even in details not found in the Nican mopohua. Thus the Relación likely reflects an indigenous tradition that is not textually dependent on the Nican mopohua. Judging from its relative simplicity, many are inclined to think that this is the more primitive version of the story. We review parts of the text below.

nra. señora de + guadalupe
Y ynin y huey tlamahuiçoltizin To to Dios
in quimochihuili yni pampatzinco Ce
micaca ichpochtli Sta. María...

Our Lady of Guadalupe
This is the great miracle of Our Lord God
That he deigned to work through
The ever virgin Holy Mary...

The first line is a title inserted in the upper margin, while the indigenous narrative begins on the second line. The narrative proper, like the Nican mopohua, opens by declaring that this is about a miracle of the Blessed Virgin. In the opening of the Nican mopohua, the miracle is said to be the apparition, but in the Relación primitiva it is how the Virgin expressed her wish to build a house for her, to be called huapilli Sta. Ma. tepeacac, that is, Our Lady Holy Mary Tepeyacac. Neither here nor anywhere in the rest of the narrative do we find any mention of the name Guadalupe.

It occurred like this:
A poor little macehual [Aztec commoner]
Certainly very devout this
Poor thin-stick sower (icnohuictzintli), poor little mecapal [porter's leather strap] there
on Tepeyacac in the throat of the hill [i.e., ravine] he walked from there to here
truly, certainly, he went scrabbling around for a little root...

This description of the Indian's poverty is rich in indigenous idioms. The expression icnohuictzintli, which refers to the pointed stick used for planting seed, has no parallel in the Nican mopohua. The term mecapal is reminiscent of when Juan Diego in the Nican mopohua tells the Virgin "I am a porter's rope" (ci nemecapalli) after the failure of his first mission to the bishop. The difference in contexts suggests that this is not a sign of textual dependence, but both narratives independently use the same indigenous metaphor. Other expressions, such as "the throat of the hill," and "scrabbling around for a little root," are unique to the present narrative. Note that our Indian, though described as pious, is not said to be on his way to church.

While scrounging for roots, our Indian saw "the precious Mother [diminutive] of God" (in Dios ytlaçonantzin. She called him and said: "My littlest son, go to the interior of the great city of Mexico and say to he who governs in religious matters, the archbishop (arçobispo), that with a great desire I wish that here in Tepeyacac they build me a house..." Note the archaic spelling of arçobispo with a cedilla, indicating this was written no later than the early seventeenth century.

We are never given the name of the archbishop nor the year of the apparition, so we cannot say for certain that the use of this term is an anachronism. It could be that the traditional date of 1531 is erroneous, and that the prelate in question was indeed an archbishop. It is unlikely that the use of this term is to be blamed on the Jesuit redactor, since it is used again quite naturally in folio 51v, line 16, where we are told the arçobispo did not believe the Indian.

The Virgin's discourse, while lacking much of the familiar poetry of the Nican mopohua, nonetheless retains the same basic message. The house on Tepeyacac is to be a place where "they come to know me well, they come to pray, the Christian believers offer petitions. I will make myself present there then, when they make me their advocate."

The poor Indian went before the great governing priest, and delivered the Lady of Heaven's message. The archbishop did not believe him, and only said, "What are you saying, my son? Were you dreaming? Or perhaps you were dizzy [i.e., drunk] (onihuintic), if what you say is true [i.e., not a deliberate lie]." He told the Indian, "Ask the lady who told you this to give you some sign, so that we can believe you."

The next folio begins directly with the Indian's final meeting with the Virgin, which includes the discovery of the flowers. There is no second meeting with the archbishop, nor are there any servants following him toward the hill, as in the Nican mopohua. In this simplified account, there are only two apparitions. While it is conceivable that there is a missing folio, this is unlikely, considering that the archbishop asked for a sign immediately upon the first visit, so the present narrative follows logically.

Most of the first three lines of the second folio (fol. 52) is crossed out, but still legible. They read "Once more our little man came to return, he was becoming very sad, so that one more time, the Governing Lady deigned to appear..." There is no discernible reason for the deletion, except preference for brevity in style. Earlier, toward the end of the first folio, the prelate's words are deleted: "...if it is true what you say, tell respectfully the lady who spoke to you to give you some sign..." Here the deletion is even more clearly stylistic, showing that the redactor made a conscious effort to abridge his account.

The Indian tells the Lady that he went where she sent him, but the governing priest did not believe him. "He only told me that perhaps I dreamed, or maybe I was dizzy/drunk (onihuintic)." He relayed the prelate's request for a sign, to which the Mother of God responded, "Do not feel sad, my young one, go to gather, go to cut there where the little flowers remain sprouting." The flowers, we are told, grew there miraculously, because then the land was dry, and there was no flower blooming anywhere else. The little man cut the flowers and carried them in his tilma to Mexico. There is no mention of him bringing the flowers before the Lady.

The Indian said to the prelate, "Esteemed governor, here I bring the flowers that the Lady of heaven deigned to give me, so in this way you may see fit to believe with certainty her word, her will..."

And when he extended his tilma to show the flowers to the archbishop, there also was shown painted on the tilma of our little man, there the imprint of the image, there it had been deigned to turn into the sign of the Governing Lady, miraculously, so that in this way the bishop saw fit to believe it. Before her, they solemnly kneeled and venerated her.

That same miraculous image is now hung and renowned throughout the world. There people go to know her and petition her. "She with her great, pious, and venerable maternity, there deigns to intercede for them..." Those who make her their intercessor with love will be accepted by the Precious Mother of God. She will aid them greatly, and relieve them greatly. "She will have them enter the place of her protection and shadow, the place where you live free from danger."

The Relación Primitiva offers some insight into what the early indigenous tradition may have looked like, though the form in which we have it dates to the late sixteenth century at best. At the time of composition, the Image was already widely acclaimed and venerated, though we are not told anything about miraculous cures. The miracle of the Image is valued for its own sake, not as an explanation of subsequent miracles. Its mention of only two apparitions need not imply that the others were of later invention, for the narrative is deliberately concise. Even in this bare bones relation, we find the essential miracle of the miraculous imprinting, and the central role played by the archbishop. Thus it is hardly likely that these two elements of the story were later accretions.

Although the apparitionist scholars have tried to make P. Juan González (1500-1590), the companion and translator of Zumárraga, the author of the Relación, there is no definite evidence for such an identification. Similarly, we find no positive evidence regarding the identity of the Jesuit redactor, though apparitionists assert this was the historian Juan de Tovar (1541-1626). Jesús Galera Lamadrid goes so far as to claim that the writing is in Tovar's hand. [In: Ernesto de la Torre Villar, ed. Nuevos Testimonios Históricos Guadalupanos, Vol. 1, p. 218.]

On the other hand, the anti-apparitionist claim that the document dates to the eighteenth century is equally unfounded. Archaisms such as the use of the cedilla and a ligatured long s are more consistent with Ramírez's dating, around 1600. The lack of a glottal h cannot date the manuscript, as this orthographic feature was never universally used, and those who did use it omitted the majority of glottal stops. Even if the manuscript was written in the seventeenth century, its numerous indigenous expressions give evidence of an older tradition. The definite changes in details and uniqueness of idiomatic expressions renders implausible the supposition that this is an abbreviation of the Nican mopohua. Regardless of whether it is more ancient, the Relación primitiva is textually independent of the traditional account. As such, it is an important early witness of the Guadalupe historiography.

Teponazcuicatl or Pregón del Atabal

Recall that Carlos Sigüenza y Góngora is said to have possessed a canticle about Guadalupe which he "guarded like a treasure," regarding it more highly than the Alva manuscript. [See Florencia, La estrella del norte de México, ch. XV; and Sigüenza, Piedad heroyca de D. Fernando Cortés, num. 111.] This canticle had been discovered by Don Carlos among the papers of D. Domingo Francisco de San Antón Muñon Chimalpahin Cuauhtlehuanitzin (1579-1660). According to Florencia, it was composed by D. Francisco Plácido of Azcapotzalco, and was sung on the day the Image was transferred to its shrine. This long lost canticle is believed to have been rediscovered among the Cantares mexicanos.

Discovered in the mid-nineteenth century, the Cantares mexicanos consist of ninety-one songs from a single genre called netotiliztli, which flourished from about 1550 to 1575. In this form of singing and dancing, the spirits of one's ancestors are summoned in a mock battle. Nearly all of the recorded songs were composed after the Conquest, so their spiritual content is brought into apparent conformance with Christianity. Apart from their relevance to Guadalupan studies, the Cantares give evidence of a revival of indigenous culture that was kept hidden from missionaries and Westernized Indians. [For further discussion, see John Bierhorst, Cantares Mexicanos, Stanford Univ. Press, 1985.]

One of the songs in the codex, called the Teponazcuicatl (fol. 26v-27v), is commonly averred to be the same as the Guadalupan canticle once possessed by Chimalpahin. The term Teponazcuicatl, which literally means "log-drum song," is not a unique title, but merely identifies the song type, and there are other Cantares with the same heading. In Spanish, it is called the Pregón del Atabal (drum procession). Since Chimalpahin's canticle was never transcribed by Florencia, we have no way of knowing for certain if it was the same as the Teponazcuicatl. Nonetheless, the latter has recognizably Guadalupan content, though it never mentions the names Guadalupe or Tepeyacac. If it is not the same canticle as that owned by Chimalpahin, it is at least of comparable antiquity and theme.

Our extant copy of this song (fol. 26v-27v) was handwritten no later than 1597. [See Bierhorst, op. cit., p. 8.] Other parts of the same bound volume, titled the Kalendario and the Arte divinatoria, have been decisively attributed to the Franciscan Fray Bernardino de Sahagún (d. 1590), from which it has been inferred that the Cantares were also compiled under his supervision. Yet much of the manuscript evinces the Jesuit style of writing Nahuatl, suggesting that the compilation of songs was completed by Jesuits who had inherited some of Sahagún's works after his death. Thus our copy is no older than 1590.

The manuscript of the Cantares is likely a copy of earlier material, as shown by the irregular retention of Franciscan orthography. The songs were likely first written in the 1550s to 1570s. Some of them explicitly mention the cities of Azcapotzalco and Mexico.

A redactor's gloss in Spanish on folio 6 reads:

Old songs of the Otomi Indians, which they used to sing at feasts and marriages, translated into the Mexican language, metaphorical images that they used to utter always capturing the substance and soul of song, as Your Reverence will understand and better than I with my meager talent, and such that they proceeded with considerable style and elegance, for Your Reverence to use and insert at the convenience of your leisure, being so good an expert as Your Reverence is.[Ibid., p. 9.]

The tone and grammar indicate that the writer is an Indian, in the service of a Spanish ecclesiastic who is an accomplished scholar. If the ecclesiastic was Sahagún, as seems probable, then the songs are not likely to antedate the Conquest, or he would have included them in his Historia general. Still, the Indian redactor rightly calls them "old," for in folio 46 a Nahuatl note says the song there was composed when "we were little children." Thus these songs date from the early post-Conquest period.

Sahagún's most illustrious student, Antonio Valeriano, is likely to have been one of the compilers of the Cantares. Folio 42v uses the phrase "here in Azcapotzalco," and folio 41 mentions that Antonio Valeriano was governor of that city.

Sahagún took a dim view of the religious content of the cantares, saying:

They sing the old cantares that they used to perform in the time of their idolatry, not all, but many, and no one understands what they say, because their cantares are very obscure; and if they perform some cantares that they have composed since their conversion, treating the things of God and his saints, these are cloaked in many errors and heresies.

The highly metaphorical language of the cantares made them impenetrable even to Nahuatl-speaking Spaniards, and Sahagún assumed that pagan spirituality was still embedded in them.

John Bierhorst claims to have gained some insights into the meaning of the Cantares. Among these is the realization that songs and flowers are often identified with each other and personified as spiritual beings. Songs invoke the spirits of revered ancestors and kings. They are rituals that unite the singer to the heavenly realm, where he goes to gather songs or flowers, and bring them back to earth. The celestial world is seen as an eternal battlefield, where revered ancestors still show their martial prowess. They may descend to earth as finely plumed birds, drinking nectar from flowers. The singer does not act on his own, but invokes the old warrior kings as his muses, to fill his throat and bring themselves down from heaven.

War and music are closely related. Aztec warriors sang and danced as they fought. In song rituals, the singers simulate martial actions, and summon their ancestors to join them in battle. Originally, such ritual involved blood sacrifice, but this aspect was abandoned under Christian influence.

In the post-Conquest period, Christian saints were among the personages invoked by Aztec songs. The militaristic themes were replaced with Biblical stories, through the influence of Pedro de Gante and Bernardino de Sahagún, yet these Christianized songs were in turn adapted by the Indians in the mid-sixteenth century, placing the Christian figures into the traditional metaphorical structure of the song. The saints, the Blessed Virgin, and even God Himself could be invoked as muses speaking through the singer. The three kings of the Nativity were reconceived as warlords, killed in battle at Bethlehem, and the traditional Aztec kings were also invoked.

This understanding of Aztec ritual song helps us to interpret not only the Teponazcuicatl in question, but also the Guadalupan narrative more generally. We can appreciate why the flowers would be considered proof of heavenly visitation, and identified with the Image of Our Lady. The diversity of flower types is common in Aztec songs invoking many different spirits. The detail of Juan Diego first hearing sounds like a variety of songbirds now makes better sense, as does the claim that the mount seemed to answer them. We must keep in mind these themes when examining the canticle in question.

The first half of the song is fairly standard of the genre, with no mention of the Blessed Virgin. Instead, the names of several ancient rulers are invoked, lamenting their departure and the fall of Tula, capital of the Toltecs. The king Ihuitimalli nonetheless is called to return. They lament that his patios and palaces, and those of prince Timal, are desolate. In wood and stone the ruler has left himself painted. The name of prince Nácxitl will never be extinguished.

The relevant part of the song now arrives. I quote Bierhorst's translation, as it is more literal than Garibay's.

"As a varicolored ear of flower corn I come to life." A multitude of maize flowers, spilling forth, come blooming: they arrive before the face of our mother, Santa Maria.

Plume-water turquoise gems are singing in these waters: they're sprouting. "I am a creature of the Only Spirit, God. I am his creation." They've arrived!

Your hearts are alive in this place of paintings. Upon this mat of pictures You are singing that the lords may dance. O Bishop, Our Father, You warble yonder at the Shore.

God has formed you, has given you birth as a flower. He paints you as a song. O Santa María, O Bishop, Our Father, You warble yonder at the Shore.

Painted are the Toltecs, completed are the pictures: all Your hearts are arriving. "Here, through art I'll live."

It is easy to understand why this song would be associated with the story of Guadalupe. In a compact passage, we have mention of the Virgin Mary, a bishop, flowers, and painting. Yet this sort of imagery is not at all unique to the Guadalupan narrative, but is common to the genre. From the context, it is the Toltec ancestors who are being painted as songs. Even God Himself, invoked as "Our Bishop, Our Father," sings them to life. The reference to God metaphorically as "Bishop," literally, "chief holy man," is found in other songs as well. It might be a recognition of Christ as High Priest. We can see why the Franciscan missionaries regarded such songs with suspicion, as the God of Christianity is embedded in a traditional pagan ritual summoning ancestors. Even the Blessed Virgin Mary participates. Still, the Indians took their Christian religion seriously, calling God "the Only Spirit," and Mary "our mother." They did not see their new faith as requiring them to suppress their desire to call forth their ancestors in ritual song.

"God has formed you, has given you birth as a flower. He paints you as a song." Even if we assume that this expression is applied to the Virgin Mary, which is far from certain, this need not be a specific allusion to the miracle at Tepeyac. The Blessed Virgin here would be an exalted personage called forth in song. The imagery of painting and flowers is common to the genre.

The remainder of the song confirms our suspicion that its theme is not specific to Guadalupe. It continues, "In song, I cut great stones, I paint large wood-carvings, so that this, in the future when I am gone, will be expressed, this my sign-song left on earth." And further, "Let me see the roots of the songs, let me plant them. Let them remain in the earth." Finally, "Truly, the flowers who are like lords are dispersing their fragrance... Our flowers are rising in this place of rain." All these expressions make clear that the descriptions of living flowers and painted images are not referring specifically to a Marian apparition, but to a more general means whereby one's ancestors have made themselves immortal.

Although the content of the Teponazcuicatl is not specific to Guadalupe or any other Marian apparition, this song might nonetheless be the canticle mentioned by Florencia and Sigüenza, which was composed by Francisco Plácido and sung during the translation of the Image to its shrine. After all, the accounts we have of this procession indicate that drums were played, and that the Indians performed ritualistic mock battles. This canticle need not have been composed for the occasion, but might instead have been an existing song deemed appropriate. The seamless joining of pagan ancestor worship and Marian devotion would have been unremarkable for that era.

Even if the Teponazcuicatl is not the same song that was independently preserved by Chimalpahin and Sigüenza, it is still useful for interpreting early indigenous Guadalupan tradition. The Blessed Virgin descended to earth in song, and manifested her living heart in flowers, which in turn constituted the painted image of Guadalupe. We can see now why the Franciscans would have looked with disdain upon the devotion, as the Indians were inclined to view the paint itself as the living spirit of Our Lady, much as they thought of the painted images of their ancestors. The Guadalupan narrative is so imbued with indigenous thought, equating spirit with song, song with flowers, and flowers with a painted Image, that we can safely set aside the revisionist notion that this was a Spanish invention. This is not to deny that written editions such as the Nican mopohua also include distinctively European thought, as is to be expected from literate Indians educated by the Franciscans.

Independently of Florencia, we know that there really was an Indian governor named Francisco Plácido, who had helped compose some of the Cantares. One song titled Cozcacuicatl ("necklace song"), dealing with the Nativity, is said to have been "put in order" by don Francisco in 1533 (fol. 37v). Other songs, of the type called melahuac huexotzincayotl, were also written by Plácido for a drumbeat in 1551, in the house of Diego de León, governor of Azcapotzalco (folio 7). [Xavier Noguez, Documentos guadalupanos (1993), p. 44.] It would not be surprising if don Francisco's Guadalupan canticle were included among the Cantares, since many of these come from Azcapotzalco, home of Plácido and that other proposed Guadalupan narrator, Antonio Valeriano.

Nonetheless, the Teponazcuicatl makes no clear reference to the miracle at Tepeyac, making it unlikely to have been composed in honor of that event. It is hardly plausible that Sigüenza would have treasured this song as a Guadalupan source text, much less that he would recommend that Florencia should include it in a Guadalupan history. It is more likely, then, that Sigüenza's treasured canticle remains lost. The Cantares only show that it is plausible for Francisco Plácido to have written a Guadalupan canticle at the time of the translation of the Image, either in the 1530s or the 1550s.

Recalling that Plácido's Guadalupan canticle was supposedly found among the papers of Chimalpahin (1579-1660), we note that this indigenous scholar gave 1556 as the date of the apparition. In the sixth section of his Relaciónes históricas (1620-1630), he writes in Nahuatl:

Year 12.Técpatl, 1556 years. In this [year] was when the stone wall began to be erected intensely. To the city of Mexico, and from all parts, the people and the lords came ready to build it. It was made by order of the viceroy don Luis de Velasco. And just then the stone wall was finished. In the same year was when Our Beloved Mother Holy Mary of Guadalupe appeared on Tepeyac.

Chimalpahin's late dating of the apparition cannot be attributed to miscalculation in converting from Aztec years, since he clearly indicates that this was during the reign of Luis de Velasco (1550-64). The historian Primo Feliciano Velázquez believed that Chimalpahin had erred in dating the wall's construction to 1556 rather than 1553. Yet Chimalpahin says this is when the construction began in earnest and was completed. Though Velasco had ordered the construction of a dike right after the flood of 1553, work proceeded slowly at first, and the city was flooded again by rainstorms in September 1555. At last, a semicircular stone retaining wall, called the albarradón de San Lázaro, was completed in 1556. There is no reason, then, to impugn Chimalpahin's chronology.

This testimony shows that, even if Chimalpahin did possess a Guadalupan canticle, he had no knowledge of a tradition that the apparition occurred in the time of Zumárraga (1530s-40s), or at least did not consider such a tradition credible or notable enough to include in his vast historical work. In fact, he says nothing at all about Guadalupe except for the entry above, though this is consistent with the style of the Relaciones históricas, which simply give concise facts about a few events for each year. Whatever may have been the content of the Guadalupan canticle, it apparently did not provide any details that would indicate the time of Zumárraga.

Annals of Tlatelolco and Mexico

More than a few Aztec annals mentioned the appearance of Our Lady of Guadalupe. The value of this testimony is complicated by the fact that such annals in most cases extended at least well into the seventeenth century, making it possible that the Guadalupan entries were inserted retroactively. Several Guadalupan references were found among the annals collected by Boturini. These manuscripts were in a state of serious decay by the nineteenth century, so they were transcribed and compiled under the direction of José Fernando Ramírez. This collection of twenty-nine numbered documents, titled Anales de México y sus contornos (AAMC), consists of various Indian annals from different parts of central Mexico. The original documents, according to Ramírez, were all written by indigenous authors. Often a single document was written by multiple authors, as each annalist, upon death, was replaced by a successor. Some annals were written by a single hand, and were evidently copies, though still quite old. Ramírez observed that the correspondence between Aztec chronology and European calendar years was not always accurate, so the same event was often assigned to conflicting European years.

The twelfth and thirteenth documents of this collection are under the title Unos anales coloniales de Tlatelolco y México. This title was given by Ramírez, as with all the other documents in the collection. These titles are not always precise descriptions of the contents. As we shall see, the second part of the thirteenth document actually comes from Puebla.

Document No. 1; AAMC no. 12

The extant annals of the twelfth document run from 1519 to 1633, using both Aztec and European calendar years, and seem to have once extended at least to 1651. One entry reads:

1631. In the year 11.Calli. This was when there was an eclipse of the sun [lit., the sun was eaten] at three o'clock. It soon came out again; it did not last long. And this was when they brought (toward here) the Great Lady of Tepeyac, Our Lady of Guadalupe.

The first part of this entry has been placed with the wrong European year, as 11-Calli was 1633, not 1631. There was an annular solar eclipse in April 1633, which would have been only brief and partial when viewed from Mexico. The Image of Guadalupe was brought to Mexico City in 1629, shortly after the start of the great flood, which lasted until 1635. This event is mentioned in the wrong year, perhaps in order to associate the coming of the Virgin with the portent of the eclipse.

In 1531 (13-Acatl), the traditional year of the Guadalupan apparition, there was a full solar eclipse over Mexico on March 28, at 3:06 pm, the same hour as given in the Anales. It is at least conceivable that the entire entry for 1631 really belonged to 1531, in which case we have testimony for the traditional date of the apparition. On such an assumption, however, this testimony was made more than a century after the fact.

The same annals, for the year 1531, record only the arrival of the twelve Franciscans (which really occurred in 1524), and the arrival of the president of the second real audiencia.

Document No. 2, part 1; AAMC no. 13-1

The thirteenth numbered document among theAnales de México y sus contornos also pertains to Tlatelolco and Mexico City. The first part of the document, called the Anales de Juan Miguel by the translators Byron McAfee and Robert Barlow, consists of annals from 1519 to 1662. As in the document mentioned above (AAMC, no. 12), we find the following entry for the year 1631: "Here in this year was brought (toward here) the precious Lady of Guadalupe Tepeyac." This codex does not seem to have been textually dependent on the one previously discussed, judging from variations in other parts. It is remarkable that this oddly dated fact should occur in two different annals, especially since there are relatively few entries in the latter.

Document No. 2, part 2; AAMC no. 13-2

The second part of the thirteenth document is actually a distinct set of annals from Puebla for the period 1524 to 1664. The years are given only according the Christian calendar, not Aztec reckoning. For the year 1530, we find:

In this year came the president for the first time to govern in Mexico. In this same year for the first time came the governing priest bishop, his reverend name fray Juan de Zumárraga, priest of St. Francis. Then our precious dear mother of Guadalupe deigned to appear.

The president of the second Audiencia, Sebastian Ramírez de Fuenleal, did in fact arrive in Mexico in late 1530, though he did not take up his governing duties until 1531. Zumárraga, however, arrived in New Spain in December 1528. He was technically only bishop-elect until his consecration in Spain in 1533, but the text seems to refer to his first arrival. This inaccuracy suggests the entry was made some time well after 1530, in which case the Guadalupan reference is also late, though we cannot say by how much.

Annals of Mexico and its Surroundings, 1546-1625

In the same Ramírez collection (Anales de México y sus contornos), we find a document titled Anales de México y sus alrededores (AAMC, no. 15), which describes events in the valley of Mexico and the area south of Puebla from 1546 to 1625. One entry makes an apparent reference to the Guadalupan apparition: "1556, 12.Tecpatl. The noble lady descended here to Tepeyacac; it was also when a star gave out smoke."

While it is conceivable that "Tepeyacac" here refers to the place of that name near Puebla, it seems too much of a coincidence that this entry should be for the same date that other early sources have given for the origin of the Guadalupan devotion. Here, then, we have a probable reference to the mariophany on the hill of Tepeyacac.

The mention of a star that "smoked" apparently refers to a comet. Apparitionist authors have noted that Halley's Comet appeared in 1531, the traditional date of the Guadalupan miracle. However, there was also the "Comet of Charles V" or "Great Comet" of 1556, which was observed by astronomers throughout Europe, and was brighter than Halley's or any other comet of the last five centuries. (Its failure to return in 1848 has been attributed to perturbation in its orbit by another planet.) There is no reason, then, to question the accuracy of the date given in the annal. The association of a comet with the year of the apparition might account for why there was a confusion of dates between 1531 and 1556.

Annals of Puebla and Tlaxcala

Also found among the Anales de México y sus contornos are two sets of annals describing events in the area of Puebla and Tlaxcala, well to the east of Mexico City. These documents attest to the traditional dates of the Guadalupan apparition and the death of Juan Diego.

Document No. 1; AAMC no. 18/1

The first of our two documents titled Anales de Puebla y Tlaxcala (AAMC, no. 18, pt. 1) covers the period from 1519 to 1739. Also known as the Anales de Catedral or the Anales de los Sabios Tlaxcaltecas, it was transcribed and translated by Lic. Faustino Galicia Chimalpopoca, as were other documents in the collection. Chimalpopoca notes that the original included drawings and glosses, and that, oddly enough, the entry for 1519 includes a description of the Guadalupan Image: "The height of Our Venerated Mother of Guadalupe of Mexico is six and a half quarters. 46 stars adorn her and 50 rays surround her."

The entry for 1531 (only Christian years are given) reads: "The Christians founded Cuetlaxcoapan, City of the Angels. In this same year Our Precious Lady of Guadalupe in Mexico deigned to appear to Juan Diego." Cuetlaxcoapan is the city later known as Puebla, which was indeed founded in 1531.

For the year 1548 we find: "Juan Diego deigned to die, he to whom the Very Venerable and Precious Lady of Guadalupe of Mexico appeared."

Since these annals extend to the eighteenth century and we do not have the originals, we cannot determine with certainty when these entries were made.

Document No. 2; AAMC no. 19

The next set of annals pertaining to Puebla and Tlaxcala (AAMC, no. 19), covering the period 1524-1674, appears to have been a copy of an older, deteriorated document, as many dates are omitted. [The manuscript is still extant (Boturini, cat. 4, no. 12) and preserved in the National Museum.] Accordingly, we cannot give an exact date for this entry, which is placed some time after 1523:

In this year the presi... came here to govern Mexico. Then Our Precious Dear Mother of Guadalupe deigned to appear there in Mexico... she reverently appeared to a humble macehual; his name Juan Diego. In this year was founded the city of Cuetlaxcoapan...

The founding of Cuetlaxcoapan, later known as Puebla, was in 1531, as noted previously. The arrival of the president of the second audiencia was in late 1530, and he took up the government in 1531. Nestled between these two data is the apparition of Our Lady of Guadalupe to Juan Diego. This is a somewhat stronger attestation of the traditional 1531 date, since the Guadalupan datum is in the middle of the entry, not at the end.

Añalejo de Bartolache, 1454-1737

An ecclesiastical calendar (añalejo), found in the library of the Royal University by José Ignacio Bartolache (1739-1790), mentioned the Guadalupan apparition in its entry for 1531. Unfortunately, the Añalejo de Bartolache is no longer extant, but we have an authenticated copy of the relevant text, which read: "Year reed 1531. The Castilians founded Cuitlaxcuapa City of the Angels, and to Juan Diego deigned to appear the precious Lady of Guadalupe of Mexico in the place named Tepeyac." Bartolache noted that the symbol denoting they year depicted a reed and the number 13. The year 1531 indeed was 13-acatl (reed) in the Aztec calendar.

As with the two previous annals mentioned, this document was of Tlaxcalan provenance, and it notes the founding of Cuetlaxcoapa (Puebla) in 1531. The Anales de Catedral (AAMC, no. 18/1), which is similar in content, but differently worded, could be a later copy of the same tradition. (The Bartolache document is sometimes called the Manuscript of the University, as distinct from the Anales de Catedral.) All of the Tlaxcalan annals mention the name Juan Diego, unlike the other annals discussed.

There is a correlation in all the evidence so far: those who know the name Juan Diego place the apparition in 1531, while those who do not know that name date the event to 1555 or 1556. We can understand why the people of Cuautitlán would have early knowledge of Juan Diego, but there is no reason to expect such to have been the case in distant Tlaxcala. Thus the more probable explanation of the discrepancy between annals of Mexico and Tlaxcala is that the latter represent a later manuscript tradition, when the name of Juan Diego was widely known and 1531 became the established date of the apparition.

The añalejo also mentions the death of Juan Diego: "Year flint, 1548. Juan Diego deigned to die, he to whom the precious Lady of Guadalupe of Mexico reverently appeared. It hailed on the white hill."

Bartolache says the pictographic year-sign in the annals is 8-flint. There must be an error, either on the part of Bartolache or the annalist, for 1548 is 4-tecpatl (flint). The nearest year 8-tecpatl would be 1552, which may account for the mention of a hailstorm on a white hill.

The "white hill" is likely the dormant volcano between Tlaxcala and Puebla now called Malintzin. It is the only snow-capped mountain visible from Puebla, and is a striking sight against the otherwise flat dry land. The area around Tlaxcala was semiarid, with little rain, frequent hailstorms and frosts during the sixteenth century. There would need to have been an exceptionally large hailstorm to be worth entering in these annals.

In 1552, a hurricane hit Veracruz, the first such storm after the Conquest. Hail can be caused by thunderstorms associated with a hurricane, or as an after effect further inland. Hail rarely reaches the ground during a hurricane, which may be why it was only seen on the mountain. No record for that year explicitly mentions a hailstorm, though one of the Anales de Puebla y Tlaxcala (AAMC, no. 18, pt. 3a) says that strong winds damaged the temple of Tepeticpac, a neighborhood of Tlaxcala.

Another possibility is that the intended date really was 4-tecpatl, in which case we find a match in the Anales de Tlaxcala (AAMC, no. 16/1:332): "There was much hail on the white hill." This entry is dated 1547 and 4-tecpatl. (The annals range from 1453 to 1603.) Again there is an inconsistency between the Christian and Aztec years. Frances Krug has noted (doctoral thesis, ch.4: 3) that these annals are systematically shifted back one year. Taking the Aztec year as correct, the hailstorm occurred in 1548, in agreement with the Christian year given in the Añalejo de Bartolache.

Regardless of whether the year 1548 or 1552 is intended, the mention of the hailstorm at the end of the Añalejo entry makes it less likely that the death of Juan Diego was a later insertion.

Codex Gómez de Orozco

The document known as Codex Gómez de Orozco consists of fourteen pages of historical annals written on deerskin. It perhaps ought not to be classified as a codex, since its content is not pictographic. Covering the period from 1519 to 1691, these annals include many events from the region of Tlaxcala and Puebla. Nonetheless, Alfonso Caso found that the document probably originated in Oaxaca, based on references to Mixtec cosmology. [Caso, A. Interpretación del Codice Gómez de Orozco (Mexico, 1954)] The annal entries are not exactly lined up with the column of Aztec calendar year symbols, perhaps indicating chronological uncertainty on the part of the scribe copying from older sources.

The entry of our interest is lined up just below the year 1530, but a marginal note indicates that this is "13 aca[tl] 1531". The text reads:

In this year the president came. For the first time he came to govern in Mexico. In the same year for the first time the governing-priest bishop (teopixatlatoani O Bispo) deigned to come, his reverend name frai Juan de Sumarraga, priest of St. Francis. Also then deigned to appear Our Precious and Venerable Mother of Guadalupe.

Note the unusual spellings of Spanish terms (O Bispo, frai), suggesting a lack of familiarity with written Spanish. The name Sumarraga has the same odd spelling as in the Nican mopohua.

This text contains striking similarity of content and wording with the 1530 entry of a Pueblan annal (AAMC, no 13-2) discussed earlier. The two documents also date the founding of Puebla in 1533 using similar language. A comparison of the Nahuatl texts is below:

YearAAMC, no. 13-2Codex Gomez de Orozco
1530 Ohuala presidente yan cuica tlatocalico Mexico zano ipanin xiuitl in hel yancuica hualmohui cac Teopixcatlatoani o bispo itocatzin Fray Juan Zumarraga San Franco Teopixqui, in huel icuac monextitzino in to tlazo nantzin de Guadalupe Nican ypan xihuitl hual presidente yancui can tlatocatico mexico [z]anno ypan xihuitl yn huel yancuican hualmohuicac teopixcatlatoani O Bispo ytocatzin frai Juan de Sumarraga San fransisco teopixqui yn huel ycuac monextitzin yn to tlasonantzin de guadalupe
1533Nican omo tlalli al tepetl quitlalique Tlaxcalteca nican Cuetlaxcoapa motenehua ciudad de los AngelesNican ipan xihuitl in omotlalli altepetl quitlalique tlaxcalteca nican Cuetlaxcoapan motenehua Ciudad de los Angeles

While the entries are not identical copies of each other, there is enough similarity of wording to prove textual dependence. There may even have been direct copying of some parts from one to the other. Charles Gibson and John Glass held that the Codex Gómez de Orozco is the older document ["A Census of Middle American MProse Manuscripts in the Native Historical Tradition," in Guide to Ethnohistorical Sources, Part 4, eds. HF Cline, C Gibson, HB Nicholson, 322-400. Handbook of Middle American Indians, vol. 15, Robert Wauchope, ed., (Austin: Univ. of Texas Press, 1975)], though this does not solve the problem of when the entries in question were first written. We cannot even be certain that the Puebla annals (AAMC, no. 13-2) were copied directly from the Codex Gómez de Orozco, since practically all the extant Tlaxcalan and Pueblan annals show evidence of textual dependence. Data were copied from other annals (extant and non-extant) to supply what had been omitted. This practice vitiates the independent witness of these documents, and makes it probable that most if not all of the extant Guadalupan entries were made much later. [A detailed analysis of the probable relations of textual dependence was made in Frances Krug's unfinished dissertation, "The Nahuatl Annals of the Tlaxcala-Puebla Region", referenced in Frances Krug and Camilla Townsend, "The Tlaxcala-Puebla Family of Annals" [PDF] (2007).]

There was once another set of annals (called the Noticias curiosas) in the Gómez de Orozco collection that mentioned the same data: the founding of Puebla, the apparition of Guadalupe in 1531, and the death of Juan Diego in 1548. The annals ranged from 1519 to 1738, and according to Gibson and Glass (1975), were likely a copy of AAMC, no. 18-1.

Another Pueblan set of annals, no longer extant, is mentioned by Florencia as having been in the possession of P. Baltasar González (1604-1679). These annals began centuries before the Conquest, in the time of the Toltecs, and were written in different hands as each annalist was succeeded by another. The annals only went up to the year 1642, yet they mentioned the Guadalupan apparition of 1531. This implies that early dating of Guadalupe was already well known before the publications of Sánchez and Lasso de la Vega, a fact already well established by the testimonies of 1666.

Synthesis of the Annals

From the accounts of Ramírez and Bartolache, most of the annals we have discussed were already ancient by the end of the eighteenth century, and were composed piecemeal by each generation in a linear progression. Nonetheless, we have noted that the Pueblan and Tlaxcalan annals show evidence of heavy borrowing from each other, making it much more difficult to establish the antiquity of a particular entry.

Most annals do not mention Guadalupe at all, though no one doubts that the devotion, at least, was well known by 1556. This only shows the danger of arguing from silence. Some, like the Annals of Cuautitlán (AAMC, no. 1), deal only with pre-Conquest political history. When we eliminate those among the Anales de México y sus contornos that do not deal with the period of interest (1531-1556), we are left with the annals listed below. Other annals of Guadalupan interest are included at the bottom.

AAMC #TitleStartEndAppar.DeathMS Extant
6Anales Tepanecas14261589--N
7Anales mexicanos, 1c10641605--N
8Anales mexicanos, 211681546-N/AY
12Tlatelolco y Mexico, 1151916331631?-Y
13-1Tlat. y Mexico, 2151916631631?-N
13-2[Puebla]15241664 1530-N
15Mexico y alred., 2154616251556-N
16Anales de Tlaxcala, 115431603N/A?-N
17Anales de Tlaxcala, 215191692--N
18Puebla y Tlaxcala, 1c1376173915311548N
19Puebla y Tlaxcala, 215241674c1531-Y
21Anales de Tepeaca15281624--Y
22Tecamachalco y Quecholac15201558--N
23Anales de Quecholac15191642--Y
24Anales de Diego Garcia15021601--Y
N/AAñalejo de Bartolache1454173715311548N
N/ACodex Gómez de Orozco151916911530/1-Y
N/ANoticias curiosas1519173815311548N
N/AAnales de P. Gonzálezc919?16421531-N

If we treat the AAMC documents as a more or less random sample with respect to Guadalupan interests, we find that six out of fifteen potential witnesses mention Guadalupe, four of which explicitly allude to the apparition and only one of which mentions the death of Juan Diego. However, we have noted that the Pueblan and Tlaxcalan annals copied extensively from each other, so they should not be treated as fully independent witnesses. If we consolidate these five (AAMC no. 13-2, 16-19) into one witness, we find that four out of twelve witnesses mention Guadalupe, only two of which mention the apparition. Only the Pueblan-Tlaxcalan annals (among the AAMC witnesses) have the traditional dating of 1531 and the name of Juan Diego.

If we look at all the annals considered (AAMC or otherwise), we find that the death of Juan Diego in 1548 is mentioned only by the three annals that happen to extend into the early eighteenth century, namely the Anales de Catedral, the Añalejo de Bartolache, and Noticias curiosas, the first two of which are believed to be copies of the same manuscript tradition. Since 1737 was an important Guadalupan year, some anti-apparitionist historians have asserted that the Guadalupan entries were made at this time. Yet the dating of the apparition to the time of Zumárraga and the name Juan Diego are also attested in AAMC, no. 19, which extends only to 1674. The early date is also attested in the Puebla annals ending in 1664 (AAMC, 13-2), and in the lost annals of P. González, which ended in 1642.

While the death of Juan Diego was almost certainly a late insertion into the annals, the early date (1531) of the apparition goes back at least to the mid-seventeenth century, even on the most conservative assumptions. Anti-apparitionists may claim that all such Guadalupan entries for 1531 were made after 1648, since those sets of annals all extend past then.

Yet it seems like special pleading to insist that the Guadalupan entries in particular were added toward the end of the lifespan of each set of annals, when in fact the annals give evidence of having been composed over many generations. Even those annals that relied on copying, such as those of Puebla and Tlaxcala, copied from older sources, so it is hardly a given that the Guadalupan data must date after 1648. The UCLA researchers of the Tlaxcalan-Pueblan annals (James Lockhart, Frances Krug, Camilla Townsend) see the Guadalupan references as proof of late composition, since they take the late invention of the Guadalupan narrative as an established fact. For those of us who are investigating the Guadalupan historiography as an open question, however, this would be circular reasoning.

Among the ten potential witnesses in the AAMC that ended prior to 1648, only three mention Guadalupe in any context. Two of these apparently allude to the transport of the Image to Mexico City during the flood of 1629, though the given date of 1631 seems to be inaccurate, especially as there was no eclipse that year (as described in AAMC 12). Only the third witness mentions the apparition, giving the date of 1556, consistent with what we have seen from some sixteenth-century documents.

On balance, we note that about one in three independent indigenous annals in the AAMC mention Guadalupe, and this fraction remains the same when we limit ourselves to witnesses before 1648. This finding lessens the strength of any argument from silence, since even those who certainly knew about Guadalupe were more likely than not to omit mention of it.

The quality of testimony, however, differs markedly between earlier and later annals. In the unquestionably older annals, we find only mention of the devotion and the apparition at Tepeyac in 1556. The older annals also correlate Guadalupe with the appearance of a comet, which might account for the confusion between 1556 and 1531. It is only in the "later" annals (i.e., those whose entries that cannot be definitively dated before 1648) that we find mention of Juan Diego and his death in 1548, as well as the traditional dating of 1531. Only the lost annals of P. González, ending in 1642, may serve as a possible pre-Sánchez witness to the early dating.

An important qualification of the annals' significance is that such records were designed to preserve events of importance to that locale (altepetl). Thus we should not expect to find mention of Guadalupe simply because it is known to the annalist, but because it is considered important to his city. The alphabetic annals were successors to the pre-Columbian pictographic codices, which gave guidelines for oral re-enactments of important events. Juan Diego was an important holy man in Cuautitlán, but not elsewhere, so we need not expect his renown to have spread with that of Guadalupe. We see in the Relación primitiva some evidence that the widely known version of the apparition narrative might at first have omitted the name of the protagonist. In any case, the name would have had little significance outside of Cuautitlán. Unfortunately, the extant annals of Cuautitlán do not cover the period of interest.

The omission of Juan Diego from the definitely ancient extant annals is not sufficient grounds for overturning our finding that the story of Juan Diego was well known long before 1648. Apart from the evidence already presented, we note that the Nican mopohua has Juan Diego crossing a quauhpantitlan (puente de palo) or wooden stick bridge. This bridge was replaced by one of masonry (mampostería) in the sixteenth century. Lasso de la Vega (or a contemporary) was not likely to recall this detail nearly a century later. A more likely interpretation of the annals' evidence is that early knowledge of Juan Diego, though existent, was geographically confined, even after the Guadalupan devotion became widespread.

Building upon our previous study of more definitely dated documents, the annals help us establish the following as likely. From at least the early seventeenth century, the Guadalupan apparition was associated with the year of a comet. This year was not widely accepted to be 1531 until the mid-seventeenth century, as far as we can tell. Although the apparition narrative was widely known by the end of the sixteenth century, the name Juan Diego was unknown or considered unimportant outside of Cuautitlán (and possibly Azcapotzalco). Widespread veneration of Juan Diego did not occur until the late seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries. These dates are all tentative, and could be shifted earlier if we find more evidence.

Pictographic Codices and Maps

The more ancient form of Aztec recordkeeping was through pictographic codices and maps, which served as mnemonic devices for the ritual recitation or re-enactment of important historical events. Few pre-Columbian codices are still extant, though much of their content was transferred to alphabetic annals such as those discussed. There are, however, some codices from the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries that have been claimed as Guadalupan testimonies. Unfortunately, the art of interpreting these documents has been lost for centuries, and is not likely to be recovered. This is because the pictographs are not a written language, but signs to prompt recall of stories and themes known to the indigenous historians. Since a codex treated local history, it would likely be unintelligible in many parts even to Nahua historians of other cities. There is no code as such to decipher; meaning is derived from context and from knowledge of oral history.

With the documents in question, the challenge for the Guadalupan historian is not so much in the antiquity of the testimony (which is generally accepted), but in establishing whether the pictographic signs do in fact refer to Guadalupe, and if so, what they say about the apparition.

Codex Saville or Tetlapalco
Codex Techialoyan
Codex of Tlatelolco
Mapa de Santa Cruz
Tira de Tepechpan
Testerian Catechism

Codex Saville or Tetlapalco

The Codex Saville, or Codex Tetlapalco, is a painted historical calendar on amate (fig tree) paper, completed around 1557, and currently preserved in the Smithsonian Institution's National Museum of the American Indian. It covers history of the Valley of Mexico from about 1408 into the early post-Conquest period. Mariano Cuevas discerned that there were two painters, one who started before 1454, and the other who worked around 1557. The colors were added by the second painter, some time around 1531, in Cuevas' estimation. Some of the pictographs are accompanied by a word or two of alphabetic text, evidently later glosses. The years are denoted by circles in a column on the right, with time progressing upward. Since the year of the Conquest is clearly marked (and has the gloss "tetlapolco"), we can see the rest of the chronology by counting years from 1519.

The area of interest, shown below, has several remarkable features. First, the year 1531 is accompanied by a string of six circles with the numeral 4, leading to a Christian cross with three stones at its base. The backwards N in "INRI" shows that the pictograph was made by someone only barely familiar with Roman letters.

The numbered discs are of a different style and color than the year markers, and have a concentric edge, suggesting that these are coins. They appear to be silver (the color is more definite in the set of coins above), so they could be Spanish coins of 4 reales or (less likely) 1/4 real. Neither of these coins featured a prominent numeral 4, so the painter evidently had some familiarity with Arabic numbers. The significance of these coins is unclear. They conceivably could be a type of marker or counter, to indicate the number 24, but the Aztecs already had their own number system. More likely, it is some sort of tribute record.

The cross with stones at its base is reminiscent of that described by Florencia:

The site in which Juan Diego heard the music of Heaven, and saw the Virgin Our Lady in the middle of a rainbow, and in which [she] twice received messages that [he] brought resulting from the Bishop, and in which cut the flowers by her order, was for more than a century with only a wooden cross, to which served as a base (peana) a mound (túmulo) of stones... [Florencia, Estrella de el norte (Guadaljara, 1895), p. 32.]

Florencia says that plants later grew around the base of the cross, and he himself had worshipped at it. Then Fray Marcos Ramírez de Prado (later archbishop of Mexico) and Cristobal de Aguirre and his wife built a chapel on the hill's peak, with a new cross on the spot where the old one had stood.

Naturally, the cross at Tepeyac was not the only one with stones at its base, so the erection of some other cross might be intended by the painter of the Codex Saville. Alternatively, the cross might signify the arrival of Zumárraga (with the same chronological error we have found in some annals), but that event is usually depicted in codices by a figure of a bishop with a miter. (The human figure below and to the left of the cross is of a local governor, unrelated to the 1531 glyph.)

Two faded words to the right of the cross are difficult to read. They are apparently zacta and hico, though the first letter of each word is most doubtful. Perhaps it means "holy Son" (sancta hijo, confusing Latin and Spanish), in which case the Cross signifies bringing Christianity to a particular place.

The image that is most evocative of Guadalupe in this (or just about any other) codex is found above the cross, shortly before the document is ended by a tear. It consists of three parts. First, on the left, there is a haloed figure standing on a pedestal consisting of two blocks. In the center, there is a rectangle containing an image of the Blessed Virgin under a crown, apparently representing an iconic painting of the Virgin. To the right is a large bell. There is a curved line leading from the painting toward the calendar column on the right, but the line disappears before reaching the column. If it were to continue straight, it would reach the year 1535. Above the line are two rows of four silver coins with the numeral 4. The third coin in each row is half obscured by a stitched tear.

It is possible that the Marian icon was supposed to be connected to the 1531 glyphs, but this has been obscured by the stitched tear. To the left of the cross, we see a rectangle, as if the painter started to draw the icon there, but then decided to place it above so more detail could be shown.

Although the figure on the left is wearing a blue mantle, as is common in depictions of the Virgin Mary, closer inspection shows that this is some other saint. The figure is bareheaded and appears to have a beard. He is holding something in front of his chest. Cuevas thought it was a lion's head, the symbol of St. Mark. Others have though it might be the Christ child, in which case this would be St. Anthony of Padua. Although the resemblance to a lion's head is weak, we must recall that an indigenous painter of that time would not have been familiar with such an animal.

The central image unambiguously represents the Virgin Mary, as is proved by the crown over her head. What is remarkable about this image is that the Virgin is enclosed in a rectangle, unlike most figures in this and other codices, suggesting that we have here a picture of an iconic painting. This is highly evocative of the Guadalupe image, yet the details of the picture do not match those of the famous icon. The Virgin in the codex is wearing salmon-pink over blue, as opposed to the Guadalupe Virgin's blue over pink. Instead of being surrounded by rays, the Virgin of the codex is depicted with a hilly landscape in the background and a giant crown hovering over her head. Evidently the artist, if intending to depict the Guadalupan Image, had at best a hazy knowledge of what the Image looked like. This is not too surprising, since the Image would have to be painted from memory or hearsay unless the codex was to be brought to the shrine.

The background of the painting is suggestive of the apparition narrative itself, rather than a reproduction of the icon. The bare peak on the left, and the hilly background with clumps of vegetation are evocative of the scenery around Tepeyac. More strikingly, we will later find that this landscape has some resemblance to that of an ancient Guadalupan drawing with Juan Diego and the Virgin.

If this glyph is not intended to depict Our Lady of Guadalupe, we are at a loss to account for this uncanny coincidence. The only other Marian image of this time that might have similar importance is Our Lady of Los Remedios, but this was a statue, not a painting. The Guadalupe of Extremadura is surely not intended, judging from the indigenous landscape. The Codex Saville as a whole depicts only a few events over a century, so this Virgin must represent some momentous occurrence. It will not do to dismiss the Guadalupan interpretation in the absence of a credible alternative. For now, the Codex Saville must make us at least reconsider a 1530s date for the Guadalupan apparition.

We should not necessarily expect the depictions of the saint and the bell to be related to that of the Virgin. These may simply represent other important events that occurred in the same year. In other codices, adjacent glyphs for a given year depict distinct events, such as the arrival of a bishop and a president. We have already seen from the written annals (which were based on older codices) that there can be multiple entries in a year.

Codex Techialoyan

The Codex Techialoyan has been proposed as a possible Guadalupan witness, because of its depiction of a Virgin in Heaven above clouds. The codex contains descriptions of places in and around the town of Calacohuayan. Beneath the picture of the heavenly Virgin, the text reads: "She is named Holy Mary of Calacohuayan (Xante Malia Calacohuayan), under the place of water, in the place of the gorge, in the riverside, place of the capulins." Aside from being situated in Heaven, there is nothing to link this depiction of the Virgin to that of Guadalupe, and the text does not allude to Guadalupe or to any Marian apparition. A more likely explanation is that the Blessed Virgin is being invoked as a heavenly patroness of this locale.

Codex of Tlatelolco

A mid-sixteenth century codex known as the Codex of Tlatelolco has also been a posited as an early witness to Guadalupe. It contains a glyph of the name Tepeyacac ("place-nose-hill"), connected to a picture of a building with a cross on top. To the left is a picture of a friar.

The friar is identified by some phonetic glyphs representing his name. According to Robert H. Barlow's 1948 introduction to the document, the first name is Juan and the last name is doubtful. The Guadalupan interpretation, of course, would be to make this Juan de Zumárraga, while the building is the shrine of Guadalupe that he ordered to be built. The Fransciscan scholar Fidel de Jesús Chauvet, however, identified the friar as Juan de Gaona (1507-1560), a Franciscan who had studied Nahuatl.

Although the codex comes from Tlatelolco, Xavier Noguez has argued that events in the region near Puebla would have been of interest, since the people of Tlatelolco had fought in that region around 1398. This tenuous connection is invoked to support Noguez's hypothesis that the "Tepeyacac" of the Tlatelolco codex is actually the Tepeyac (now Tepeaca) near Puebla. It must be admitted that the octagonal tower known as the "Rollo de Tepeaca" bears a striking similarity to the building in the codex. This structure, built in 1559 on the site of Aztec ceremonial ball games, combines Spanish and Islamic architectural styles.

Codex of Tlatelolco Rollo de Tepeaca

The document does not have a clear chronology, though Barlow attempted to construct one on the basis of two calendar year glyphs, so that the entry in question is dated 1560. Noguez offered an alternative chronology, which would date our entry to 1555. Barlow's chronology, at least for the entry in question, is a better fit of known historical facts. The Rollo was built in 1559, and Juan de Gaona died in 1560, so we may expect both of these (unrelated) facts to be related in 1560.

The Guadalupan significance of this codex is doubtful at best, and at any rate could do no more than establish the existence of a shrine in 1555 or 1560, which is already known.

Mapa de Santa Cruz

Another extant document, in the form of a pictorial map, seems to depict the Guadalupan shrine at Tepeyac. It is known as the Mapa de Santa Cruz, since Alonso de Santa Cruz ordered a copy of it to be made for his Islario general de todas las islas del mundo, which was begun before 1540 and probably completed in 1556-58 (i.e., while Felipe II reigned and Carlos I still lived). Thus the map potentially antedates the Bustamante-Montúfar controversy, in which case it is probably depicting the original shrine from the Zumárraga period.

Based on geography, the hill in question is almost assuredly Tepeyac. It is reached by following a major avenue from Tlatelolco and then crossing a bridge. The buildings next to the hill are bigger than houses but otherwise relatively simple. They could represent the original adobe shrine with the adjacent house of Juan Diego, or perhaps the larger structure built under Montúfar, but this is difficult to determine, as the painter did not strive for realism here. The two protuberances atop the hill might be suggestive of the apparition, but judging from their green color and comparison with other hills, this is likely to be just decorative vegetation.

In front of the hill are glyphs for nopal (nochitli) and some unidentified plant. Their meaning is uncertain; they cannot represent the place-name "Tepeyacac," since there is no glyph of a nose.

Even accepting that the map does depict the shrine of Guadalupe, it does not tell us anything about the apparition. The most it could prove is that there was a shrine prior to the one built by Montúfar, but we could already glean as much from other sixteenth-century sources.

Tira de Tepechpan

A more conventional calendar-based codex, known as the Tira de Tepechpan, has some glyphs for the year 1530 that are evocative of the Guadalupe story. A bishop and two other dignitaries are depicted as though in a procession. The bishop is Juan de Zumárraga.

The three figures actually represent three distinct events that occurred within a year. In 1530, fray Juan de Zumárraga went to Castile in order to be consecrated as bishop. The text near the second figure, holding a lance, mentions the return of the marqués of the Valley of Oaxaca, that is, Cortés, to Mexico. The third figure, carrying a cross, is accompanied by faded text mentioning the arrival of the president of the second audiencia, Fuenleal, who was also bishop of Santo Domingo, in 1531. Only the first two figures have lines connecting them to the year 1530, while Fuenleal is directly under the year 1531.

One last symbol of possible Guadalupan interest is an eagle depicted well above the three figures, yet beneath the years 1530 and 1531. A blue swirl emanating from the eagle's beak is the glyph for speaking (tlatoa). Thus we may read "Cuauhtlatoa" ("the eagle speaks"), which was the Nahuatl name of Juan Diego (with the reverential -tzin added), according to Sigüenza and other sources. While this interpretation is a tantalizing possibility, there is no alphabetic gloss to explain the symbol’s meaning definitively.

Testerian Catechism

A so-called catecismo Testeriano, named after the innovator of this style of catechism, the Franciscan Jacobo de Testera, contains several Marian images that are supposedly depictions of Our Lady of Guadalupe. This catechism actually consists of two documents, the second of which was signed by Pedro de Gante, who died in 1572. The first pages of the catechism say that this was used by the missionaries to teach doctrine to the Indians “at the beginning of the conquest of the Indies.” If the Marian depictions could be identified as Guadalupan, they would represent an important early witness to the existence of the Image.

The Virgin Mary is consistently depicted in the catechism with a blue cloak over a salmon-pink tunic, which is a distinct color scheme from that used in other catechisms and paintings of the period. These are the same colors of dress in the iconic Guadalupan image. Although this is not enough evidence to identify the depictions as Guadalupan, we at least find that the Guadalupan color scheme is consistent with an early sixteenth-century origin.

The evidence of the codices considered thus far is ambiguous at best. We have yet to consider a more famous codex, recently discovered, which would definitively establish the authenticity of the Guadalupan narrative, if only questions about the codex’s own authenticity can be answered.

Continue to Part XI


© 2012 Daniel J. Castellano. All rights reserved. http://www.arcaneknowledge.org

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